There a many flags with an animal on it, often ferocious animals like lions or eagles. Other flags have less ferocious animals like for example the flag of Papua New Guinea, which features a silhouette of a bird-of-paradise. Beautiful, for sure, but just not that intimidating as an eagle devouring a serpent. Another intimidating animal is a bear. Like the flag of California has on it. But why does the Californian flag have a bear?
The Californian Grizzly Bear
The flag of the state of California is nicknamed the Bear Flag. The precursor of the flag was first flown during the 1846 Bear Flag Revolt and was also known as the Bear Flag. A predecessor, called the Lone Star Flag, was used in an 1836 independence movement. The red star element from that flag appears in the Bear Flag of today. The reason a grizzly bear was chosen was because it was an animal native to California and the rebels identified themselves with. The creator of the flag called the bear a symbol of strength and unyielding resistance.
The first official version of the Bear Flag was adopted by the California State Legislature and signed into law in 1911 as the official state flag. The bear on the flag is called Monarch, and was the last living Californian grizzly bear in captivity. The current Bear Flag has seen many versions during the years, because there was simply not a standardized version yet. On some flags the bear resembles more of a wolf or a hyena.
In 1953 the bear image was standardized based on an 1855 watercolor by Charles Christian Nahl. The 1953 legislation also defined the exact shades of the California flag with a total of five colors (including the white field).
The Bear Flag is one of only 4 state flags that does not contain the color blue.
What do we think about the flag?
A very original flag, with a cool nickname; the Bear Flag. Few flags have such a detailed image on it of an animal. Too bad it depicts an animal that is extinct now, the Californian grizzly bear. But pretty cool that it still says California Republic, since California is a US state now, and only has been a republic for a whopping 25 days.